Zimbabwe Pushes To Reimburse Farmers Who Lost Properties

Zimbabwe expects to raise $22 million annually in land taxes from black farmers which will be used to compensate farmers who lost their properties under the controversial land reform programme.

Lands Minister Douglas Mombeshora says the beneficiaries have begun paying the levies, which will be collected into a Land Compensation Fund.

Zimbabwe says it has paid compensation for 240 farms, a tiny fraction of the number of properties seized, 16 years after the often violent evictions began.

Zimbabwe has decried the fact that only 4% of the more than 6 000 farms acquired under its resettlement programme have been compensated.  

It blames financial constraints resulting from a low growth rate, and a dollarized economy.

Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa has urged stakeholders to ensure that any compensation plan is informed by these realities.  

He is proposing a staggered model of payment where the elderly farmers received compensation first, while younger farmers be paid over a longer period of time.  

As a result of the Zimbabwe’s economic challenges a proposal that beneficiaries of land reform contribute to paying for improvements to the land.

Chinamasa says, “It is something that we would need to consider, giving them long term payments and in that it regard treasury bills.”

The first stakeholders meeting held in Harare is attempting to create consensus on compensation plan between farmers groups, government and donors.

Chinamasa describes it as a government initiative that seeks to normalize relations with the international community as more importantly with its own white farmers.

However, the farmers group says the clauses in the constitution that offer pay-outs for improvements only to white farmers are discriminatory.

Seized black owned farms and those protected by Bilateral Investment protection agreements will receive full compensation.

Land Minister Douglas Mombeshora says the first section will be for indigenous farmers who had their farms taken away.

“Compensation will be for land and improvements. The second category is for Bippas, they will also be compensated for both land and improvement and third category talks about the other farmers who will not fall into subsection one or two they will be compensated for improvements only,” says Mombeshora.

I find it extremely unfair that Bippas and black commercial farmers that had their farms taken are going to be treated differently

Commercial Farmers Union President Peter Steyl says, “I find it extremely unfair that Bippas and black commercial farmers that had their farms taken are going to be treated differently.”

He says he believes that it is not fair and everyone should be treated the same.

Groups representing the land reform beneficiaries believe compensation plans should be scrapped as they betray the liberation fighters who died reclaiming the land from colonialism.

Zimbabwe National Farmers Union President Stan Goredema says they cannot operate without looking into the history of the whole issue.

“If we talk from the top without thinking where we came from, then we will have serious problems. I am saying you can’t ignore what brought land reform. It is quite clear that Zimbabwe or Southern Rhodesia was a colony by conquest,” says Goredema.

The Lands ministry says it still to evaluate compensation claims on more than three quarters of the 6000 farms.